Sometimes you have to put the best hand down, regardless. Playing seven-card stud the other night, I found Q (A-A) in the hole. Another ace, showing, opened for pounds 1. The conventional way to play a pair of aces in the hole, of course, is to raise, to narrow the field. But that way I would have won merely the antes. So I just called along.

The next card gave me a queen for a pair of queens showing. I bet pounds 10. I assumed that, knowing my tight-as-a-drum reputation, everyone would now drop. The opener folded his ace but, to my surprise, three other players stayed. Next card I caught a blank but Li, on my right, who was a capable player but fairly easy to read, caught the last ace, to show a three-heart flush, and the case queen also fell. My two pairs, aces and queens, were almost certainly best, but with the other aces and queens out, they could not improve!

D: (2A &A) &Q 2Q 43

A: (x x) !8 !J !A

B: (x x) &8 49 !Q

C: (x x) 210 46 &4

Looking at Li's possible heart flush, I hesitated. He couldn't have aces, obviously, so what had he come in on? I checked the bet, to see what he would do. He pushed forward pounds 20, with a nervous little gesture which indicated he had not yet made his flush. B, who was a gambling kind of player, showing a straight draw, called. If he had had a straight he would have raised. C, an emotional type, already on tilt, called with an air of desperation, presumably pulling to two low pairs. Question: what should I do with my two top pairs? If I called and raised the pot, pounds 100, I was sure everyone would call me for value, because they knew for sure I could not have trip queens, and would never dream of hidden aces. I could not improve my hand, and would have to wait on sixth street, and then the final card in the hole, hoping none of the others improved. I certainly could not justify calling any serious bet. So I folded. Everyone then checked on seventh street and C took the pot on tens-up. Grrr!